I remember the first time I saw you. From the moment I set eyes on you across a crowded store I knew I had to have you.
Others had come and gone, but none like you. You were a rare mixture of strong and steady but soft and firm. You made me feel so comfortable and relaxed.
So I took you home and we spent the night together. I nestled across your wide frame and you responded to the ‘individual contours of my body’ – just like you had promised.
From that day forward we were inseparable. Sometimes we would spend entire weekends together. We were so happy. But then everything changed.
A new love came into my life. A beautiful baby girl. She turned my life upside down and resented me spending time with you.
Long Sunday lazy lie-ins soon became a thing of the past, and instead of snuggling up with you at night, I would be up rocking, feeding and singing to a baby who would do anything to stop me from seeing you.
As soon as my newborn was asleep in her cot I would creep into my bedroom hoping that we could snatch a few hours together. But alas, it was not meant to be. As soon as I snuggled up with you she would summon me to her side once again.
As I held my daughter night after night, all I could think about was when we could be together again. I became obsessed with you.
I needed to see more of you. I was so tired I could no longer think straight. My house was a mess, I was a mess and my mind was fast-becoming a mess. I cried for you. All I could think about was how much I wanted you. If we could just get one night alone together everything would be ok.
‘This too shall pass,’ they assured me.
But month after month passed and I was still waiting. I was severely sleep-deprived. I missed you more than ever. I had tried everything to get my child to sleep for more than a few hours but nothing worked. I had read all the baby books and browsed the parenting websites. But my little one had spat in the eye of sleep training and kicked the woolly butt of Ewan the Sleep Sheep.
So I threw out the manuals, stuck the sheep in the bin and decided to take a different approach. Is it possible the solution had been staring me right in the face all this time? It was time to bring the mountain to Mohammed.
That night, when the baby woke up, instead of sitting in the dark nursery rocking her to sleep, I employed the ‘Sod it, She Can Sleep In With Me’ approach.
I placed her next to me and she smiled. I tried my hardest not to smile back. Smile at my child at this hour and you may as well send her an invitation to an all night pyjama party.
Oh well, I thought. People swear by this co-sleeping thing. She should soon feel so comfortable and secure she will fall into a deep sleep. Right?
Wrong. Her eyes remained wide open despite my softly sung lullabies.
In desperation, I simply nestled down next to my baby and pretended to be asleep.
She sang, she blew raspberries, she bounced around the bed. But finally … she slept.
For ONE hour.
At 1am she was sticking a finger up my nose. By 2am I had endured a kick to the face and a poke in the eye. At 3am I was woken up by my hair being pulled out, and at 4am she climbed on my head. By 5am she was sleeping, horizontally, as I lay still, not daring to move. One creak, one breath, one sneeze and she would be awake.
It may not have been the best night’s sleep I had ever had, but at least I got to spend an entire eight hours with you my love.
From that day forward, you were no longer just mine. You were ours … the family bed!
These days your once crisp, clean king-size mattress is an array of dubious looking stains, and smells like stale milk and baby vomit. Your once fine frame is covered in crayon marks and sticky handprints but this only makes me love you more.
I look at you and see toddlers jumping and laughing. I see babies sleeping and stories being told. I think of lullabies, changing nappies, breastfeeding and my husband and I staring at the beautiful faces of our sleeping children. I remember the cuddles, the fun, the laughter and joy. Being woken up far too early with slobbery kisses or tiny hands stroking our faces. Drinking luke-warm coffee at 6am, tired but happy.
So I have come to accept that my dearest divan and I may not get as much time alone together any more. But I have a feeling that one day, when I wake up after a good night’s sleep without a tiny human lying next to me, I will long for those early morning kisses and midnight cuddles – and recall all those happy memories that we shared together.
By Emily-Jane Clark, mum of 2 and author of www.stolensleep.com